You are currently viewing Driving through Death Valley | The essential questions!

After renting a car in San Francisco, we drove to Las Vegas. This road trip made us take a road often chosen by tourists who cross the Yosemite National Park, then the famous Death Valley.

Discover all the essential information to know before starting your road trip in Death Valley.

What is Death Valley?

Death Valley is a frightening name. It is officially a national park located in California. For a long time, Death Valley was populated by a few tribes of Indians, then by gold diggers. They all suffered from the conditions of the valley.

death valley hills
Desert landscapes to admire again and again…

On more than one million hectares, you have a variety of landscapes, fauna and flora. However, the image that remains and that you will have when driving through the desert is that of a huge expanse of rocks and sands with very hot temperatures. These special conditions are the reason for the name “Death Valley”. Surviving in this place in the days before cars and roads was a real ordeal.


Is there a fee to enter Death Valley?

Apparently so! Indeed, there is no entrance ticket office as it is the case in other national parks. So we went without paying anything.

However, while searching on the Internet, I just discovered that you have to pay your entrance either online or at Furnace Creek, in the middle of Death Valley.

I wouldn’t recommend fraud, but we failed to pay and didn’t come across any controls.

For a more comprehensive tour, there are many guided tour offerings. You can find one on websites like GetYourGuide.

What are the temperatures in Death Valley?

Death Valley has the hottest temperatures in the United States. In July and August, they regularly exceed 110 °F. During our visit in October, it was 85 °F.

When looking for statistics, the average temperatures are between 50 °F and 70 °F from November to February, around 80 °F in March/April/October. The rest of the year, the average temperature is between 85 °F and 105 °F.

The temperature seems even hotter, because there is no shade, no humidity and the air is really dry. Rainfall occurs on average 16 days per year.

death valley place
This exhibition in Death Valley highlights the life of the pioneers in the desert.

The warmest temperature ever recorded was in July 1913 with 133 °F. However, global warming is changing the trend and all other records are recent: 126 °F in September 2020, 129 °F in September 2020, and 127 °F in June 2021. No doubt that the absolute record will be broken during the next decade.

When to take a road trip to Death Valley?

With such high temperatures, it is dangerous to make a road trip in Death Valley between June and August.

Doing it in the winter is possible, but you won’t experience Death Valley as a hot and very difficult place to live.

To get the in-between time, choose spring (March to May) or early fall (late September and October).

death valley panorama
The flying sand sometimes obstructed the view.

What roads are used during a Death Valley tour?

There are few roads in Death Valley, and attempting unmarked roads, without knowing them, is not a good idea.

The main road in Death Valley is California State Route 190, more often read as CA-190.

If you want to see Badwater, you’ll take a small road called Badwater Road. If you are going north to see Grapevine Peak, you will drive on Scotty’s Castle Road.

Amelie and I slept the night before in Lone Pine, just before Death Valley. Then, in the morning, we took the CA-136 which took us on the CA-190. We traveled this road all the way to Death Valley Junction. The State Line Road, which starts after Death Valley, then took us to Las Vegas.

Is the road pleasant?

death valley car
The road was clear, uncluttered and pleasant despite the sand veil caused by strong winds.

Driving in the United States is generally very pleasant. When you stay on the main road, you enjoy a perfectly good, wide lane. It’s the American way of driving, comfortable and stress-free. As Europeans, we are used to small and damaged roads.

The road is less winding than those in national parks like Yosemite or Utah, but it’s not always flat or straight.

If you take other roads, they may be less comfortable, especially if you don’t have an SUV.

We had the misfortune to drive in a very windy day. The sand was flying in large amounts so we had a limited view. This partly spoiled the experience.

How long do you ride in Death Valley?

I don’t consider any stops or detours.

It lasts:

  • From the east, between the “Death Valley National Park” sign and the “Death Valley Junction”: 1 hour and five minutes for 61 miles.
  • From the west, between the “Death Valley National Park” sign and the “Death Valley Junction”: 1 hour 50 minutes for 98 miles.
death valley parking lot
Take breaks in the parking lots and take the time to really enjoy the place.

Other routes are possible. It is in your best interest to take more time by making some detours. Nevertheless, I advise you to check a few days before your trip that there is no road closure. Google Maps shows these closures almost live.

What do you see during a Death Valley tour?

The landscapes you see when you are driving are a real activity. They are beautiful. The North Americans (USA) have the excellent idea to have on the main tourist roads some “Points of view“. This sign indicates a possible stop with a parking lot and a facility to enjoy an exceptional view. This way you can see the best panoramas.

death valley zabriskie point
Zabriskie Point, and this view in particular, is the most visited place in Death Valley.

During our drive through Death Valley, we stopped at every possible viewpoint and took some great photos. A place like Zabriskie Point has a paved path of several hundred meters that allows you to walk.

The main places of the Death Valley are:

  • Badwater: the lowest point in North America (-86 meters above sea level)
  • Zabriskie Point: a magnificent view accessible from the CA-190, it is the most visited place in Death Valley
  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dune: with the small sand storm in progress, we did not go there…
  • Dante’s View: it offers a panoramic view on the Death Valley
  • Furnace Creek Village: ideal for a stop for a pee, the provisioning…
  • Father Crawley Vista Point: an impressive crater in the mountain named after a Catholic priest from the 1930’s.

It is best to list the things you want to see before you enter the national park. That way you won’t realize at the end of the park that you missed half of it!

death valley father crowley vista point
Father Crowley Vista Point has a special color.

Can we hike in Death Valley?

Yes, but no.

More concretely, there are famous hiking trails like the Mesquite Flat Sand Dune or a trail to the Ubehebe Crater. In the car, we also passed people running in the difficult heat and through the sand.

However, it is recommended not to take unfamiliar paths or you will get lost and not to walk when it is over 100 degrees. With dry air, you lose a huge amount of water and if you are not equipped or in a very good shape, the consequences can be tragic.

In any case, hike or not, make sure you have enough water to keep you well hydrated along the way.

Where to eat in Death Valley?

The easiest way to eat is to bring your own food and select foods that can withstand the heat. On the hottest days, the ice in your cooler may melt very quickly.

death valley furnace creek
Furnace Creek is the center of life in Death Valley.

There is also a restaurant in Furnace Creek. In addition to a grocery store, you have several restaurants. Don’t expect great food, but it’s enough to get some strength (and fat!) back.

Where to sleep at night in Death Valley?

The trip is short enough that you don’t have to sleep in Death Valley National Park. Our choice to sleep the night before in Lone Pine was a good idea.

However, there are a few places to sleep in Death Valley. You have several accommodations in Furnace Creek: a hotel in Stovepipe (next to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes), another one next to the western entrance of the park. There are also a few campsites, but overall, the choice is very limited.

Where to fill up?

If you’ve read the entire article so far, you’ve got it, I’ll say Furnace Creek again. This Death Valley hub has a gas station. You also have one in Stovepipe. However, due to the conditions and the cost of filling the tank, you will pay a very high price compared to other stations in the United States.

The best thing to do is to fill up before entering Death Valley, and then refill on your way out.

Also, if you have a half-filled tank, don’t underestimate the vehicle’s needs or rely on the number of miles left on your gas meter. You’re going to be driving in the heat, with the air conditioning on high, and encountering some bumps. The gauge can go down quickly. And you don’t want to break down in the middle of the desert!


Death Valley is a mythical place in the United States. If you are close to it, it is compulsory to go there. With the comforts of modernity and our big cars, you won’t be suffering like a pioneer with his cart in the desert. However, do not underestimate the dangers. Choose your visit dates carefully and prepare your visit to make the most of it.


As a professional blogger, I take advantage of my flexible schedule to travel a lot. I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list!